During this course, I have learned that psychological first aid is an in-depth process that cannot involve a cookie cutter plan for everyone. Each individual is impacted differently during an incident and treatment must be tailored to suit a myriad of needs. As such, mental health care professionals play a significant role in emergency response and surveillance.
Additionally, I learned that stressors that impact one person may impact another differently, or not at all. Specifically, children and adolescents may be affected by stressors that an adult may not even see; as they have failed to build an understanding of the situation and have underdeveloped coping skills.
Finally, I have learned that people can be impacted by an event, even if they were not personally involved in the event. Through multiple mediums, such as news reporting and social media, people can develop psychological and physiological health problems despite not being personally involved.
This class has afforded me the opportunity to look inward and see how I perceive emergency response and those impacted by the event from a mental health standpoint. Utilizing this information, I will be able to provide better support to victims and other emergency responders and be acutely aware as to why people do what they do during and after response. As for other courses, I have already used this information to assist in answering public health during an emergency forum questions.
If I could pick just one thing that the world would be well served to better understand about the psychology of disaster, it would be that preparation is key. I chose this because we cannot choose when or where a disasters will strike, nor can we avoid the fact that they are simply a part of life. As such, waiting to see what happens when they do is a monumental failure. Proper education and support can lead to greater mental health resiliency and will do well to avoid many issues altogether as well as give a fighting chance to the unfortunate victims.
The three primary take-aways that added to my understanding of the psychology of disaster would have to include: the perception and personalized response of a traumatic event to different people, the need and importance of critical infrastructure, and the impact on first responders. People perceive events and experiences very differently. As such, they internalize and personalize those experiences and their responses to the event in very different ways. What one person may see, hear, experience, and perceive, could be drastically different than the person standing next to them. This creates the need for tailored responses to disasters, as opposed to a standardized one-size-fits all model that could create secondary trauma. I never really considered the significant importance of critical infrastructure and the role it plays in disaster response. Even when I lived in Florida during multiple hurricanes, I knew the infrastructure could withstand hurricane impacts, but looking at Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria (my week 7 project), I didn’t realize how fragile everyday life truly is and how much we rely on creature comforts. Finally, the impact of disaster response on first responders is something that is personal to me, but having to dig into it during this course provided context and further meaning behind the why and how of this phenomena.
My current position within the NSA and Intelligence community provides me immediate application of this course’s lessons. As I continue in my career to help people who are dealing with disaster-related trauma and similar scenarios, the principles and information I’ve been able to glean from course materials will be invaluable, both educationally and professionally.
If I could pick just one thing that the world would be well served to better understand about the psychology of disaster, it would be the importance of lessons-learned from prior disasters. I chose this because the world has endured many disasters, similar in nature. Having the information and after-action lessons-learned is the first step and is often accomplished, but the application of those lessons sometimes falls short. Governments would do well to set aside their ego(s) and live up to their oath to protect their citizens. Ensuring safe environments to live, work, and thrive are extremely important and can protect against catastrophic loss in the wake of a disaster.
Identify and describe three take-aways from the course that added to your understanding of the psychology of disaster.
Three takeaways from the course that helped me learn and understand the psychology of a disaster are: First Responder PTSD, mental health importance, and the effects of disasters on communities. First Responders are out law enforcement police officers, paramedics, firefighters and military members who go out and respond to disasters by saving lives. What people don’t realize is that First Responders experience a form of PTSD due to what they witness when saving a life. Nothing is worse for some First Responders than seeing parents lose their children. It takes a great deal of help from mental health professionals to help them as PTSD ruins marriages, causes aggressive and abusive behavior, etc. The importance of mental health is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it has become mainstream and take a lot more serious than before. On the other hand, people have used it as an excuse to commit heinous crimes against others. Either way, therapists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals owe it to their patients to properly manage their trauma. Disasters can take a large toll on communities, especially in instances such as natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina or Irma. Due to the damage caused, communities were ravaged and many people were left without homes.
How do you believe you will make use of your new knowledge in future courses and in your present or future career?
I am stationed with a SEAL Team and I think what I’ve learned with this course is perfect timing. I can now have a deeper understanding of what they may be experiencing when I deploy with them, beyond the level of understanding of a mere deployment on a ship, squadron or SEABEE unit. These guys are the cream of the crop when it comes to first responders to defend our country and now I can use what I’ve learned to do my part, not as a mental health professional, which I am not, but as a fellow comrade within my troupe, I can be more aware.
As you do in many courses, complete the following sentence to demonstrate the “most” important element of the psychology of disaster.
If I could pick just one thing that the world would be well served to better understand about the psychology of disaster, it would be the long term affects of trauma. I chose this because we tend to focus on the matter at hand and maybe the next few months. We have become somewhat numb to disasters and moving forward, we need to revisit these disaster areas more frequently, more specifically with things that happen on a regular. The media has to be more responsible in disseminating the information to the masses, as their personal agenda does little to benefit the survivors.